Review of Past Microwave Oven Testing at the University of Delaware

The use of microwave ovens provides a great deal of convenience to our lives, however, care must be taken to avoid human exposure to the microwaves that heat and cook our food so well. Since 1971, the Food and Drug Administration has required all microwave oven manufacturers to meet performance standards. Ovens may not emit radiation above specified levels. There must also be two independently operating interlocks to terminate microwave radiation when the oven door is opened.

Since 1987, the University's Department of Environmental Health & Safety has monitored the safety of campus microwave ovens. Several hundred ovens have been tested for radiation leakage and door interlock operation. The test results overwhelmingly confirm that microwave ovens are meeting the federal safety standards. In the rare cases when microwave leakage around an oven has been detected, the radiation was found to be well below the level considered to be capable of causing harm. The results also reveal that the ovens that "leaked" were also physically damaged in some obvious manner. Damage to the door seal, the door hinges or latch, or interior walls were found to cause some ovens to leak radiation.

The campus community is encouraged to report damaged microwave ovens to the Department of Environmental Health & Safety so they may be checked for safe operation. There is no charge for this service. Oven users are also advised to keep the oven interior clean and free of food build-up, especially the door seals.

For questions or to report a damaged microwave oven, please call EHS at 831-8475.